In the aftermath of the revelation that longtime assistant Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky is suspected of 40 counts of sex crimes against young boys, two athletic administrators resigned, the president has quit, and the famous head football coach, Joe Paterno, has been fired.

“In less than one week, the Penn State we knew unraveled.” The Penn State we knew is gone, according to an editorial in The Daily Collegian, the student newspaper at the university.

The editorial urges more appropriate behavior of students after thousand of them rioted last night, tearing down street lights and overturning a television news van in protest of the school’s decision to fire football coach Joe Paterno.

The piece reads, in part:

Penn State does not need to be put in a worse light than its leaders already have. The spotlight was on Penn State last night and we only drew more negative national attention to the Penn State name. The national media did not come for the students, but they stayed because we put on a show. The emotions brought on by the night varied from somber and respectful to angry and unlawful.

This is not what Joe would have wanted.

Maybe now is not quite the time to worry about what Joe would have wanted. Joe seems to have wanted all of this to just go away. This is the grand jury report about the alleged sexual abuse. It dates from December 2010.

As Dan Bernstein writes at CBS:

This is not a Sex Scandal, as TV graphics scream. This is not a college football scandal, to be compared and contrasted with point-shaving, cash to recruits or swag traded for tats. This is a deep, ongoing conspiracy to conceal and abet child abuse by a state-run university.

Bernstein instructs readers to “know what Joe Paterno knew, and had to know.” The fact that he didn’t reveal this information publicly almost a year ago is understandable. Paterno was the head football coach. He wanted to win games and promote Penn State’s football program. Focusing on Sandusky, or even revealing what he knew to be going on with Sandusky, would adversely affect the football program.

Yesterday Paterno spoke with the football team for a few minutes about the end of his career. He cried and told his players he was leaving. The main message of the speech was apparently “Beat Nebraska.”

That’s the problem.

This happened, this scandal, this cover-up, this riot, because at school like Penn State football is more important than anything else. This is what allowed the school to ignore problems with Sandusky for quite awhile. That’s also part of what caused students to howl in protest when their beloved head football coach was fired after he informed his boss when a graduate assistant told him that one of his staffers and friends was raping an underage boy.

Granted, the correct policy for addressing this particular sort of heinous action is perhaps unclear, but it happened. It happened at Penn State and it appears to have been happening at Penn State for at least 15 years.

Penn State is still the same institution as it was last week or even last year. It’s the Penn State you thought you knew that is gone. [Image via]

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer